Sunday, January 31, 2010

Still Not Shopping at Wal*Mart

Here's the email I sent to Wal*Mart today:

It's been a month now since I've been to a Walmart store; my local store in Citrus Heights is not providing shopping bags for purchases, and that's why I have been going to Target and Safeway. I would be happy to shop at Walmart again, but I do *not* want to be inconvenienced by having to bring in my own bags each time I come to shop.

I'm told from past emails I've received from Wal*Mart that this "experiment" in no bags is supposed to end today, and the company will "evaluate" the results to see if they're going to extend this practice to all stores and make it permanent. My guess is that the results were pre-ordained, and Wal*Mart is going to try to save a few cents per purchase by inconveniencing me and requiring me to carry around shopping bags in my car just in case I want to stop at their store. That's not how a company should treat customers.

I'll post their reply to the above email if I get one.

Update: I sent my email to both the local store and to corporate headquarters and got the same form-letter response as I did last time:

Dear Darren,

Thank you for your inquiry. Beginning January 2, 2010, Walmart will remove all plastic bags from the front end in three California stores; Folsom, Ukiah and Citrus Heights. The stores will offer a new type of reusable bag; one for $0.15 cents and another for $0.50 cents.

However, purchasing the reusable bags is just one option. Customers can bring in any bag from home to hold their purchases. The test phase will last only 30 days after which time we will evaluate the test results to determine the next steps.

This move has nothing to do with State or Federal legislation but with Walmart_s zero waste commitment. It is about finding new ways to reduce our plastic bag waste and understand our customer's needs and interest in reusable bags.

Walmart has also committed to reduce its global plastic bag waste by one-third by the end of 2013 - this test could help us make progress towards this goal.

Walmart Customer Care

This has nothing to do with waste--since I won't have bags to reuse, I'll have to buy other bags, so there's no net loss in so-called waste. This is either a PR ploy to jump on the "green" bandwagon, or an attempt by Wal*Mart to squeeze a couple extra cents out of each purchase by not putting the purchases in bags, or both. I outlined several problems with this approach in my previous post on this topic.


maxutils said...

So, just to clarify: Wal-Mart cutting costs by actively working to prevent unionization, cool; Wal-Mart cutting costs by selling goods produced in countries with iffy labor laws, cool; Wal-Mart cutting cost by charging you a few cents for a bag, grounds for a boycott.

Sandy said...

Do you have Aldi's there? Aldi's does that here, along with making you put in a quarter to get a cart, but people put up with it because it's a deep-discount generic-type of store. You don't go there to do your every-day type of shopping.

I don't see people here putting up with it at Walmart, at least not here, in a less "green" part of the country that still laughs at political correctness. In fact, on the occasions when I've remembered to bring the reusaable shopping bags, I've had the cashiers at Walmart give me a hard time, telling me people were using them to walk out the door with items they hadn't bought.

Hopefully Walmart will let idea die. They've already begun running so lean on inventory that it's common for them to be our items I want to buy. Paying for shopping bags would be the thing that sends to Kroger for good.

Sorry for the rant, Darren-- you hit a nerve! :-)

Darren said...

Max, you should recognize, as an economist, that I'm using my power as a consumer in the marketplace to try to influence Wal*Mart's behavior.

If the workers unionize, *my* prices will go up. I'm sure the workers aren't worrying about me and that instance. Besides, those workers and I will *both* have less money in our pockets--they because of union dues, and me because of higher prices--less money to spend at other locations. Net loss to everyone *except* the union hierarchy and the Democrat Party.

Wesley Fryer said...

Habits are hard to change, particularly habits of convenience. "As an economist," what is the long term impact of consumers at WalMart using recycled shopping bags of some sort? It is big environmentally.

I'd encourage you to do your part with a smile.

Being grumpy about a pilot initiative which, yes, could result in positive environmental impacts is silly. Hopefully you have bigger fish to fry to bring about constructive change in your community than stopping this recycled shopping bags program.

Darren said...

The so-called positive benefit is trivial. As I noted, there is *no* net savings of "waste", at least where I'm concerned, since I'll either reuse Wal*Mart bags or have to buy others to use.

gbradley said...

Sounds savory. "walmart shoppers" bringing their bags from home festering with God knows how old pizza sauce all over it. Slapping it down on the belt right before I let my apples get rung up.

I like Wal*Mart prices, but sometimes the savings just don't make sense.

Polski3 said...

You still hav Raillys (?) up there? It always seems to be a good place to shop for groceries when I've been in your neck of the valley....

Mrs. Widget said...

Dear Walmart,
if you really cared about "going green" you would give your customer's the reusable bags. Or offer at a discount to purchase them. Or offer customers a discount in their purchase if they bring in their bag.

maxutils said...

Darren, a union that does not create a net benefit for the worker will not form. Doesn't mean that it won't eventually become that way if a bunch of teach . . .er, workers become complacent. . .

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter if YOU PERSONALLY will use plastic bags or not. It matters whether the OVERALL EFFECT is positive.

I've read your posts and you obviously recognize that in other situations. Why not here?

Some people will buy disposable bags. Those people are creating the same waste (roughly speaking) as they would have created anyway.

However, some people will switch to reusable bags. Those people are creating less waste.